Newest art car: The Mahlangu Phantom

South African artist puts her mark on a Rolls-Royce

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Artist Ester Mahlangu and the 'Mahlangu Phantom' Rolls-Royce | Rolls-Royce photos

A variety of artists have lent their style to various vehicles, especially BMWs, and now Rolls-Royce has added acclaimed South African artist Ester Mahlangu to the group. “The Mahlangu Phantom” is a new Rolls-Royce Phantom with commissioned artwork, inside and out, by Mahlangu.

The new Phantom includes a panel on the dashboard that the automaker calls “The Gallery” and which can be personalized by vehicle owners. Or in the case of the Mahlangu Phantom, by a renowned artist.

Mahlangu, 84, is from the Ndebele people. She started painting when she was 10 years old and her art reflects her culture and its fondness for color and geometric design. She was commissioned by BMW to do the first African art car in 1991. The car was displayed in Europe, England and Washington, D.C. Since then, her art has been acquired by many collections.

“The Gallery is a unique environment for patrons of our marque to express personal and often highly creative artworks and we are indeed honored to showcase Dr. Mahlangu’s work in this Phantom’s serene interior,” said Cesar Habib, regional director for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Middle East and Africa.

Art on the car’s dashboard

“With the goal of preserving her cultural heritage, Mahlangu founded an art school at her home in the Mpumalanga province where she mentors young artists in the traditional style of Ndebele design,” Rolls-Royce said in unveiling the art car. 

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“A portion of the proceeds from the sale of ‘The Mahlangu Phantom’ will be donated to the school and will be used to support a retrospective exhibition that will narrate her fascinating life story and celebrate her invaluable contribution to contemporary African art.”


A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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